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Copywriting and Content Writing: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Desk set up with laptop and plant

Writing is writing, right?

Wrong. Copywriting and content writing are two very different skills, yet the terms are often used interchangeably.

Now you may be thinking ‘well, why does it matter?’, but when the two are confused it can result in brands seeking out the wrong kind of professional. It also makes it trickier for new writers to learn the tricks-of-the-trade and market themselves correctly.

As I’ve delved deeper into the world of copywriting, whilst expanding my content writing work, the difference between the two has become increasingly important to me. Compartmentalising them means I can whip out the right skillset and best practices for each task I tackle.

But this post isn’t about me and my workaholic tendencies. I want to make the difference super easy for you, so you can get clear on what you’re looking for...

What is content writing?

You may have heard of the term ‘content creators’ floating around on social media. Well, in a similar way, content writers produce content that’s of interest to a certain audience. That’s relevant, engaging, on-brand written work for websites and other online platforms.

Most content writers consider search-engine-optimisation (SEO). People seem to get a kick out of making SEO seem scary and complex, but it's essentially researching what people are searching online and ensuring that content addresses these keywords and questions, so it’s picked up by Google.

Key purpose:

  • Educating the reader

Types of content:

  • Blog posts

  • eBooks

  • product guides

  • press releases

  • newsletters

  • user guides

  • white papers

  • magazine/zine articles

Key skills:

  • Maintaining brand tone of voice

  • Industry research

  • Search engine optimisation

  • Content marketing knowledge

  • Addressing customer persona and pain points

Related work:

  • Proofing and editing

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting refers to the words (known as copy) on marketing and promotional materials. It’s the creative, catchy, and convincing lines you’ll come across on a daily (or more like hourly) basis.

Key purpose:

  • Persuading the reader

Types of copy:

  • Banner ads

  • Print ads

  • Social media ads

  • Sales copy

  • Email funnels and campaigns

  • Brochures

  • Slogans and taglines

  • Website copy

  • Landing pages

  • Product descriptions

  • Promotional materials

Key skills:

  • Catchy and creative writing

  • Advertising and marketing knowledge

  • Data-driven research

  • Collaboration with designers

  • Effective communication

  • Writing/ implementing brand voice

Related work:

  • Commercial script writing

So, what’s the difference?

To summarise, content writing aims to inform the reader. It wants them to go away with a greater knowledge of the brand and related topics. It needs to be enjoyable and, more importantly, easy to read.

Most people come across content when they’re searching for a certain topic, so the writing needs to incorporate questions people have and make it as quick as possible to find the answers.

Copywriting, on the other hand, is about persuading the reader. It should make them feel empowered and excited to take the desired action. It lets the reader know the benefits of the product/ service in an on-brand and engaging way.

Okay, you get it, they’re different. But why does it matter?

Content writing and copywriting

If someone tells you they’re a content writer, and they leave it at that, you’re safe to assume they only write content. So if you’re asking them for copy, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.

If someone says they’re a copywriter that’s a little different, as copywriters often do some content work. It just might not be their favourite thing and they might not go as in-depth on things like SEO.

If you find someone who emphasises they’re both a copy and content writer, then you can trust they are knowledgeable in both areas and know the. Damn. Difference.

Now, let’s make it about me again…

What do I do?

If you’re a true fan (hi mum) you might have noticed my new tagline: ‘copy and content for ethical brands’. It marks the start of an exciting shift in my business.

I currently write content for a range of ethical brands and entrepreneurs. This includes blog posts, webpages, newsletters, proofing and editing, and search engine optimisation services. There’s activewear, skincare, body care, aromatherapy, CBD products, health supplements, a meditation teacher, refillable deodorant, vegan candles…and the list keeps growing.

Copywriting is a newer venture for me.

Though I’ve done some copy-ish work in the past, I’m now developing my skills in this area. I’ve got my study-brain back on and I’m working through the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy course. I’ll be launching my new services soon, and I have some exciting copy jobs lined up. Keep your eyes peeled for my copywriting portfolio soon too!

Let’s finish with a challenge for you…

Next time you read something online, try to identify whether it’s copy or content.

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